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Brown: Afghanistan troops not under-equipped

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 13 July 2009

Gordon Brown rejects claims by opposition leader David Cameron that British forces in Afghanistan lack the resources they need to do the job.

Gordon Brown (picture: Reuters)

The conservative leader David Cameron claimed the shortage of helicopters was an 'extreme emergency'.

But the prime minister told the Commons that helicopter capacity had been increased by 84 per cent since 2006, with £6bn set aside for future investment.

And he said he had been reassured there were enough troops on the ground.

Speaking on Channel 4 News, Brigadier Ed Butler, a former commander of British troops in Afghanistan, said: "I think there has been an increase in resources. There are clearly more troops on the ground and there has been a small uplift in helicopters.

"But to do counter-insurgency effectively you must have mass.

"We are currently in that period between building up the Afghan army and trying to defeat the Taliban and that is a matter of containing the situation, buying sufficient time and space for the Afghans themselves to take on the security.

"I think from the personal equipment perspective, the British soldier has never been so well equipped, but my concern is that we don't have sufficient enablers such as helicopters, intelligence-gathering systems and communication systems.

"If you have insufficient helicopters, you become very predictable.

"If you leave a base in Afghanistan in a convoy of vehicles to go from A to B, the Taliban pick up very quickly where you are going and therefore can lay a mine or an ambush for you.

"The helicopter gives you the ability to lift a significant number of troops, maybe a company's worth or maybe 400 in one lift, and put them where you want to at a time and place of your own choosing.

"So you can outwit your enemy, you can surprise him and you can achieve shock effect.

"If you rely totally on vehicles or insufficient helicopters, you are constrained in the options you have available to you."

Foreign Secretary David Miliband told Channel 4 News: "We are part of a 41-state coalition, where the biggest other partner is the United States.

"The fact that we are part of regional command south means that we are sharing some equipment where others are able to make a contribution, while other nations use our equipment and that is part of the nature of a coalition.

"I think that sense this is a very significantly resourced mission, it's not just resourced by us or by foreign troops, but critically by Afghan troops as well.

"And the fact that the Afghan national army now has 90,000 troops I think is a significant contribution towards the increased force that is necessary.

"Withdrawal is not on the government's radar because it would undermine precisely what we have achieved.

"The whole purpose of driving Al-Qaida out of Afghanistan is to ensure that there is not a safe haven for global terrorism.

"To withdraw now would be to invite, not just Taliban rule in Afghanistan, but also the return of Al-Qaida to a safe haven that we can ill afford."

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